Chapter Four: Old Guard

Gazing up at their new ship, Lorrik and Jresh thought only of infinite possibilities. They possessed the ability to go wherever they wanted, to do whatever they wanted. More than anything else in their lives, they had been given the physical embodiment of freedom.

"So, what next, Lorrik?" Jresh asked, an enthusiasm layered atop his usual calmness.

Lorrik dipped his head, gently scratching his chin. "You know… we could always use a vacation."

The Pureblood arched his brow. "You haven't considered the past few weeks a vacation?"

"I meant away from Imperial space," said Lorrik. "Go someplace nice, have a little fun."

"What did you have in mind?"

"Depends on the kind of experience you want," Lorrik replied. "Do you want to indulge in a bit of seedy revelry, do you want to unwind and relax, do you want some good wholesome fun? We've got Nar Shaddaa, countless orbital resorts… oh, and there's Pa'nek Station."

"Isn't that place a slaver den?" Jresh asked.

"It was," Lorrik stated, slightly tilting his head. "But apparently a new Hutt took it over and has been turning it into a theme-park or something."

"I suppose we are in an era of change, after all," Jresh noted with a restrained shrug.

The Human released a hearty chuckle. "You've got that right. Point is, we've got plenty of choices. There's no reason we have to immediately get back to business."

"We have to get back to business," Lorrik bluntly stated.

Looking up from the couch, Jresh saw his partner holding a datapad in his hands. Pouring over the information presented by the electronic device, the Human awkwardly paced about the living area of their apartment. His face aglow from the handheld tablet's screen, Lorrik bared a look of hesitant frustration.

"That bad?" Jresh calmly offered.

"Well, we've only a month before we have to start making payments on the apartment. We had to move our ship from the Logistics' starport into a public one, where we have to pay to maintain a hangar. Once we start flying anywhere, we're going to have to cover fuel costs," Lorrik listed.

"How much funds do we have in our account?" Jresh inquired. The Human offered his answer in the form of a scrunched face. "That bad?"

"Not to worry," Lorrik tried to assuage, mostly himself. "You remember how much those lightsaber crystals went for. If we can get our artifact hunting business off the ground, we'll be fine."

"There's a limited number of Force artifacts in the galaxy," Jresh stated, tempering his expectations. "We can't guarantee we'll get our hands on that good a find again. At least, not this early in our operations."

"Early on, we won't have to worry about finding items ourselves, others will tell us exactly where to find them," Lorrik confidently stated. As Jresh readied another response, the Human tapped a series of command into his datapad. Setting the device onto the coffee table, the pair watched as its data streamed to the viewscreen mounted on the opposite wall. "I've been doing a little research."

Taking his place beside his companion, the two Sith looked upon the series of data presented by the viewscreen. Names. Numbers. Facts and figures.

"I see you've been busy," Jresh commented, eyes widening at the bounty of information.

"Alright, a big part of the artifact trade is retrieval," Lorrik began. "A Sith's biggest concern is opportunity cost. Most Lords are unwilling to go out and get these things themselves, despite the fact that they are capable of doing so. It's just that their time could be better spent elsewhere, especially when they have the means to get others to get things for them. The biggest players have apprentices or ties to Reclamation Service, but still, nothing gets done for free. That's where we come in."

"We get Sith to pay us to get artifacts they are too lazy to get themselves," Jresh suggested.

"Exactly," Lorrik heartily admitted. "Now, typical costs can range in the thousands once you factor in travel, accommodations, hazard, things like that. But since we're just two people, we can cut costs a squad of troopers or mercenaries cannot. Plus, we've specialized skills we can charge extra for. Therefore, we're making more and spending less."

"So we're not actually acquiring any items for ourselves, we're just facilitating transfers," Jresh commented, less enthused.

"For now," Lorrik replied, a playful intrigue in his voice. "We have to ingratiate ourselves in the sphere before we can make use of its networks. Once we're proven we're reliable, that we can be trusted, we can start to work with Reclamation, we can start making contacts, we can start gathering artifacts ourselves. That's when we can finally start doing what we dreamed of."

"Bettering the Empire?" Jresh suggested.

"Bettering the Empire," Lorrik confirmed. "If you can control the artifact trade, you can control a lot of things… control a lot of people. We'll have influence within one of the more influential spheres of the Sith Empire. Eventually, we'll be able to dictate the flow of items. Instead of going to other Sith, other Sith will come to us. We can start aiding likeminded Sith, start punishing disruptive ones. We can keep dangerous items out of dangerous hands."

"Upset one of the Empire's oldest and most sacred institutions," Jresh mused.

"We beat the Academy, we can beat this right?" Lorrik said with a smile. "Now, there are some major figures we need to familiarize ourselves with."

Reaching for his datapad, the Human input another series of commands, focusing the data stream on a set number of individuals. A series of statistics and pictures popped up on the viewscreen, mostly of pasty old men.

"The biggest guy, and one we need to avoid, is Darth Thanaton," Lorrik revealed.

Of the images displayed, one of a middle-aged Human enlarged and took focus. Hairs grayed by age, eyes yellowed by the dark side, the Sith's visage made clear his experience. The regal countenance, coupled with the crimson rune tattooed around his left eye, gave the Darth a look of calm ferocity.

"He's got the largest pool of resources in the entire sphere of Ancient Knowledge," Lorrik continued.

"More than the Dark Councilor?" Jresh wondered.

"Technically, the Dark Councilor owns and operates everything within the sphere," Lorrik declared. "But he's more interested in macro-scale operations and dealings. We can operate beneath his notice. Thanaton, not so much."

"Why do we need to avoid him?" Jresh asked. "Is he that large a threat?"

"If you're on his side, not at all," said Lorrik. "But getting on his side might be impossible for us."

"How so?"

"He's a staunch traditionalist," Lorrik explained. "Which, given the fact that we have neither masters nor apprentices, the fact that we managed to completely circumvent the Academy system, and the fact that I'm a former slave… we won't be earning any points with him any time soon."

"If he's as influential as you say, can we get by ignoring him and his minions?" Jresh wondered.

"Sure we can," Lorrik enthusiastically declared. "He might be the biggest fish, but it's a pretty big lake."

Input another command, Lorrik had the viewscreen focus on another individual. This one appeared practically ancient, a hunched Human hidden beneath his hooded robes, wrinkles dominating every bit of exposed flesh.

"This is Darth Kaar. He's the Sith's head archivist," Lorrik commented. "He doesn't collect so much as document. Every archeological find goes through him. He catalogues and tracks every artifact that falls into and out of Sith hands. While he doesn't interact directly with those within the sphere, he nonetheless has great influence. He doesn't have a power base or a legion of followers, but he supposedly reports directly to the Dark Council. And even without enforcers, it's said that those who keep their finds from him always wind up dead."

Jresh scratched the fleshy tendrils hanging from his chin. "Anything about his behavior? His personality?"

"He's something of a hermit, never leaving his office within the Citadel," Lorrik explained. "Everything I've seen indicates that he's more of a scholar than a Sith, but he's managed to keep his position since before the war, so he must be doing something to keep him in the Council's favor."

"And how do we stay in his favor?" Jresh asked.

"So long as we don't go hiding our acquisitions, we should be okay," said Lorrik. "And since we turned over the cache we recovered on Coruscant, we might already be in his good graces."

"Who else do we have?"

Lorrik pulled up the next individual, a female Pureblood. While younger than the preceding men, she was still advanced in her years, her particular age masked by her rigid features. Her face was sharp, possessing the boney ridges and spines jutting from her brow and cheeks indicative of a strong bloodline.

"Darth Karresh," Lorrik commented. "She'll likely be our in."

"How so?"

"She deals primarily in external expeditions rather than domestic affairs," Lorrik explained. "Her underlings are always looking for means to impress their master, which means they're constantly on the lookout for valuable artifacts. But retrieving said artifacts outside of Imperial space requires a certain… effort. Effort that has been somewhat hampered by the end of the war. They can't just mobilize an armed force like they used to."

"But a pair of Sith with their own starship might be able to do what they cannot," Jresh suggested.


"Alright, how do we go about meeting with Karresh?" Jresh asked.

"We don't," Lorrik quickly replied. "We work through the Lords beneath her. Establish credibility and competency. Word will spread of our successes. Perhaps Karresh will take notice. Perhaps others will. At this point, we're not establishing loyalties, we're building our brand."

"You know, I almost thought putting the Academy behind us would make you lose your spark," Jresh said, lips bordering on a smile. "Good to see I was mistaken."

The Human released another hearty chuckle. "I'd never lose my spark, you know that."

Jresh nodded as he looked to the other portraits on the viewscreen. "Who else do we need to consider?"

"Let's see…" Lorrik muttered as he flipped through the other names. "There's Darth Skaven. Human male. Specializes in Sith tombs. Heavy ties to Reclamation Service. Operates mainly on Kaas, Korriban, and Ziost. It was one of his minions that tried and failed to pillage the Valley of the Forgotten Lords. He might view our more successful delves with respect… or distaste."

"I notice those in high standing amongst the sphere aren't exactly young," Jresh commented.

"Ancient Knowledge is the territory of patience and careful calculation," Lorrik detailed. "The war took less of a toll on this sphere than most of the others. If we want to make any headway here, we're definitely going to have to deal with some of the old guard."

"But with the end of the war, I suspect there will be an influx of new players as Sith shift their focus inward," said Jresh.

Lorrik offered a firm nod. "You'd be right. There are countless upstarts trying to make a name for themselves, just like us. Only they'll be far more invested in keeping the system as it is. We'll have to look out for these Sith just as much, if not more than the Darths."

"Almost makes our previous trials seem simple, doesn't it?" Jresh offered with a low chuckle.

"Tash did weave a particularly impressive web of intrigue, but I suppose no matter what, there was still only two sides to our conflict," Lorrik commented. "We're stepping into a world of countless parties competing for countless interests. One on one doesn't exists anymore."

"Well that's a relief," Jresh declared. "I was worried our new occupation might be too easy. Wouldn't want us going soft now would we?"

Lorrik released a soft chuckle. "Ever the warrior, aren't you?"

"So, these upstarts… anyone we need to watch out for?" Jresh wondered.

"Well…" Lorrik softly stated, drawing out his word as he punched another command into his datapad.

The pair of Sith watched as the pictures of the old guard disappeared and were replaced with the names of rising acolytes and apprentices. The list stretched and expanded, name after name revealing itself. The list grew and grew until there were dozens, until there were hundreds on screen.


Tucked deep within the Kaas City Citadel, amongst the grand halls of Imperial dominance and Sith superiority, there was an office. An office cemented in grandeur. The normally dull walls were adorned with bannisters, blood-red cloths baring ancient runes of a long-dead language. Pedestals rose from the ground in smooth columns, lining the left and right sides of the chamber, each featuring a unique trinket hovering above its flat surface. Held afloat via microrepulsors built into the base of each stand, the various items of power and status rotated in the air, granting visitors a look at every single facet of their being. A holocron here. An amulet there. All procured through effort.

In the center of the room, there was a grand desk fitting its grand surroundings. The elegant block of wood had been cut and shaped from one of the towering trees native to the dark world. Every face of the sharp piece shined with an ebon glow as the light reflected off its polished surfaces.

Dominating the wall behind the desk was a large inlet featuring a single fixture. A stone bust, meticulously carved to resemble the visage of a Sith Lord. Gray stone, shaped into a fierce, but heroic countenance.

And sitting between the room's two most prominent features, the organic counterpart to the bust. A Human, middle-aged, matched his stone-faced replica in all manners aside from existing at a slightly smaller scale, and possessing a slightly more receded hairline. The graying Lord sat his high-backed chair, garbed in his high-collared robes, leaning forward to intently eye the two guests before him.

Lorrik and Jresh sat in parallel armchairs across from the Lord, almost sinking in the oversized seats. Wearing their plain robes, the pair took extra care to at least look presentable in front of the Sith Lord, the black clothes having nary a stain or wrinkle. Enduring the cold stare of the office's owner, Lorrik and Jresh remained stilled and silent, the Pureblood with his arms crossed, the Human with a datapad resting upon his lap.

"Thank you for invitation, Lord Morrin," Lorrik respectfully offered.

Interlocking his fingers, the Sith Lord affixed his sharpened gaze toward the pleasant guest. "Under normal circumstances, I wouldn't entertain this sort of endeavor. But I cannot afford to wait for another opportunity to present itself."

The Sith Lord spoke with a dismissive gravel tainting every syllable that slipped past his lips. As tall as everything around him stood, the middle-aged Human seemed to sink in front of the pair of guests, his elbows digging into the hard desk, his face drifting behind his conjoined hands.

"I understand your trepidation, but I guarantee you'll be pleased with our work," Lorrik warmly stated. "If I recall, you seem be having trouble with some pirates, correct?"

"That's right," Morrin grumbled. "A Reclamation transport carrying an important artifact was assaulted on the fringes of Imperial space. Now, the holocron I promised my master currently rests in the filthy hands of pirate filth."

Lorrik began softly scratching his chin. "I thought Reclamation Service was a military branch. How did a band of pirates manage to steal from them?"

"I didn't requisition a full team. I didn't think they were needed to ferry a single holocron," Morrin confessed.

"An understandable mistake," Lorrik offered along a brief shrug. The elder Human's eyes sharpened further as he arched his brow. "But regardless, do you know where these pirate are now?"

"They have a base on Nar Shaddaa," Morrin informed. "Normally, I'd send my apprentice to retrieve the item, but he's on assignment and I can't risk the thieves selling the holocron before his return."

"Well, for a modest sum, we can have that artifact back in your hands in no time," Lorrik warmly declared.

"A modest sum?" Morrin repeated. "That's all you desire? Credits?"

"If you want to put in a good word for us with your associates, we'd surely appreciate it," Lorrik replied. "But for compensation, yes, credits are all we need."

"How many credits are we talking?"

"Well," Lorrik began, lifting the datapad off his lap. Placing the tablet on the desk in front of him, he carefully slid the device toward the Sith Lord. "This is our contract. It stipulates that we'll be compensated for travel fees on top of a standard rate for hazardous item retrieval."

"I see you don't work cheap," Morrin grumbled.

"That's the cost of efficiency," Lorrik replied.

"And what all this text beneath it?" Morrin inquired, still eyeing the datapad.

"That's an agreement basically saying that neither party entering the contract plans to manipulate the terms of our agreement. I won't try to backstab you. You won't try to backstab me. It's so that you know we won't just keep the artifact after you tell us where it is."

"This sort of agreement actually works?" Morrin mumbled, almost impressed.

"Not sure. You're the first we've offered it to," Lorrik said with a chuckle. "But we fielded it with Laws and Justice, so you can just walk over to their offices and report us if we break our agreement. Don't even have to leave the Citadel."

"When I heard about you two, I expected something unusual, but this is downright peculiar," Morrin plainly stated.

"Our methods may be strange, but our results will be more than satisfactory," Lorrik replied.

"That remains to be seen," Morrin grumbled. "Very well, how do I sign this?"

"A hand print will suffice," Lorrik answered.

The Sith Lord pressed his palm against the tablet's screen. A quick flash of light and an audible ping signaled its recognition. Sliding the device back across the desk, Lorrik took ahold with a thankful dip of his head.

"That should cover it," Lorrik said, carefully picking himself up and out of the soft armchair. Silently, Jresh did the same. Patting himself down, Lorrik gave one final perusal of the datapad in his hand before looking to the Sith Lord. "You have our contact information. Send over whatever details you can, and we'll set out as soon as possible."

Lorrik offered a respectful bow of his head before stepping toward the office's entrance. As his partner passed column after column of trinkets on display, the Pureblood remained still, focusing on the seated Lord.

"Have a nice day," Jresh spoke up, utterly stoic.

With that, the Pureblood followed his companion, and the two soon vacated the office leaving the middle-aged man alone and befuddled.

Traversing the dark halls of the Citadel, Lorrik wore a beaming smile as his partner caught up with him. Together, the pair walked side by side, a confident gait powering both of their legs.

"I'd say that went rather well," Jresh admitted.

"I know, right?" Lorrik replied. "Thank goodness for desperate Sith Lords."

"Desperation often breeds stupidity," Jresh offered. "If he's doing this to stay in his master's good graces, he might oppose the idea of being saved by two lowly Sith."

"That's the point of the contract," Lorrik said with a sharp grin.

"You don't think that agreement will actually hold up, do you?"

Lorrik chuckled. "Oh, of course not. But at least this way, we'll always be in the right when our clients inevitably turn on us. It's less about preventing the betrayal, and more about keeping the Imperial Guard off our backs if we're forced to start busting heads inside the Citadel."

"But Morrin works for Darth Karresh," Jresh noted. "If we're trying to build a relationship with her, I don't think beating down a subordinate is the best way to do so."

"It's not like I go into these things expecting to be betrayed, it's just something to prepare for, you know?" Lorrik offered. "Besides, depending on the type of Sith she is, she might like that kind of thing."

"Humiliating a member of her power base?"

"Asserting our dominance," Lorrik corrected.

"I'd prefer if we withheld such assertions until we have a few jobs under our belts," Jresh admitted.

"Fair point," Lorrik admitted. "For now, let's focus on getting this holocron."

"Do you think we can reach it before it gets sold off?" Jresh asked.

"With the war over, the Jedi and Sith have less distracting them. That's made the underworld traders a bit more cautious when dealing with Force artifacts," Lorrik detailed. "How fast we can do this depends on the info Morrin send our way."

"What if he doesn't give us anything to work with?"

"We can stand to do a little investigating ourselves. Beside, information is a major commodity on Nar Shaddaa. Someone will have the information we need."

"It won't come cheap," Jresh declared. "We don't need to spend more than we make on this mission."

"I doubt it'll come to that," Lorrik replied. "Besides, we can just bill it as part of the travel expenses."

"It seems you've thought of everything."

Lorrik leaned to his side, brushing shoulders with his partner. "Well, it's much easier to plan for contingencies when I know you'll be by my side."

The Pureblood looked to his grinning companion, his own lips curling into a smile.